Measuring Agenda Setting with Online Search Traffic: Influences of Online and Traditional Media

32 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2010

See all articles by Laura A. Granka

Laura A. Granka

Stanford University; Google Inc.

Date Written: September 5, 2010


This paper addresses the patterns of influence between the news media and the public, by specifically targeting breaking stories, or shocks, to a news system. Specifically, we assess media agenda setting and selective exposure by looking at the relative public attention spans to hard and soft news (as measured by query volume), in comparison with the volume of news coverage (in print, broadcast, and Web content) for these selected news events. We measure the dynamic distribution of issue coverage in the news media, and how this volume of coverage ultimately influences online search traffic. In order to assess sustained interest in a given topic, distributions of query volume and news coverage were fit with Gamma distributions of appropriate parameters. Findings indicate that there are significant differences in the public attention spans for hard and soft news issues, particularly relative to what news coverage might predict. Soft news events produced a slower rate of decline in query volume, matching the slow tapering off of issue coverage found in Web content. Conversely, for hard, substantive news issues, query volume drops off quite quickly, more closely paralleling the distribution of coverage in broadcast news.

Keywords: online search, agenda setting, selective exposure, selective attention

Suggested Citation

Granka, Laura A., Measuring Agenda Setting with Online Search Traffic: Influences of Online and Traditional Media (September 5, 2010). 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 2-5, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Laura A. Granka (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Google Inc.

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Second Floor
Mountain View, CA 94043
United States

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